Martino Stierli on Zhu Pei's Jingdezhen Imperial Kiln Museum
On December 17th, in the latest online edition of MoMA's ArtSpeaks program, Martino Stierli, Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design and organizer of the exhibition "Reuse, Renew, Recycle: Recent Architecture from China", takes a close look at a novel porcelain model of Jingdezhen Imperial Kiln Museum and shares his personal impressions of this artwork.
A Unique Porcelain Architectural Model
Hi, I'm Martino Stierli and I'm the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design here at the Museum of Modern Art. Today we are looking at an architectural model of the Imperial Kiln Museum in the city of Jingdezhen in China.
This model really has always held a very special place for me. I came across it for the first time in the architect's office in Beijing, the office of Zhu Pei. I was really astonished when I first came across this because it's made out of porcelain and it's something that is completely novel and unheard of. I am really not aware of any other architectural model anywhere that is made out of porcelain.
The craftsmen had actually never done anything of this kind of complexity and it underwent several iterations. Each of these models takes several weeks to prepare to mold, then it has to be burned for 16 hours in the kiln, and then it has to cool down another 16 hours and the outcome is highly, highly uncertain because it's just very difficult to control so this model is at long, long end of several years of experimentation, we could call it a conventional site model.
We chose the building here which consists of this series of vaulted structures but is situated in the dense urban fabric of downtown Jingdezhen so the model really gives you an understanding of how this unusual museum with its unusual shapes is situated in the larger urban context and superimposed on the archaeological sites of the kilns that have been here for many many centuries.
This model is a summation of the incredible craftsmanship of the laborers on the kilns. It is almost a metaphor for this long and incredible history of porcelain production in Jingdezhen design that dates back many many centuries because of course it is made out of porcelain and a very specific glaze that is used here was actually first invented and that the very side where the museum now stands the amount of ingenuity and labor that went into this model is just incredible. And we are showing it here for the first time to the public and it is absolutely astounding as I saw it a few years ago in Beijing.